Thursday, April 30, 2015

Researching South East Asian Cuisine.

Es Teler (Coconut Milk, fruit juice, shaved coconut, floating fruit)
     This post is all about food! Whether it's food I am cooking or restaurants we found  that I just loved- we will be talking about it. The reason is because research about the upcoming trip to SE Asia has me thinking about foods I can cook with a whole new array of spices and foods readily available at the market. Spending an extensive period of time in a region of the country I haven't been can be scary when it comes to finding foods you like. I will admit it, I haven't had Indian food or Thai food. I have heard that Portland, my former home, has amazing Thai food but I just hadn't been interested when I was living there. Andrew has been begging to go out for Indian since we met. I will say, the way food looks has always been important to me and Indian food can appear a bit sloppy, dark and gooey. I have been assured that it tastes much better than it looks though! So, in the upcoming year I will let you know about my pursuit to have more Asian food in my diet. My only experience is a one time stop for Indonesian food and the constant ordering of  American style Chinese food which I am sure doesn't do justice to the real thing and we aren't going to China!  So, I won't know just yet. I found some recipes and I will update you on how they go. If you are trying to cook Asian food for the first time I recommend just starting with the recipes with few ingredients or just ingredients you know you can find. When you feel more comfortable check out the Asian food markets for those things you couldn't find at your market. They are very well priced. One thing I really like there is Chrysanthemum Tea. I am excited to learn about the different fruits and vegetables available in Asia that maybe aren't ones I eat regularly here. We had some crazy concoctions at the Indonesian place like Es Teler, a floating fruit milk drink.  I am just hoping that if I am open minded all will go okay. I mean, if they have chicken, pineapple and rice. I will be good.  Here are a few of the ingredients that I have found in almost every cookbook on Asian food that are essential basics for asian recipes. I am not sure which are most used in what countries yet. And I don't know a ton about them but here are some of my initial feelings.
1. Bamboo Shoots
2. Bean Sauces and Pastes
3. Besan (Chick Pea Powder)
4. Black Beans (which I have learned are not the same as mexican black beans they are fermented soy beans.)
5. Bok Choy
6. Chili Paste ( The only thing I use on the regular on this list!)
The time Brenda's Squid exploded at Hardena in Philly
7. Crisp- Fried Onion garlic and shallots (Sounds awesome like the stuff on green bean casserole)
8. Dashi Granules (dried fish) I am weary of this but I'll update you.
9. Dried Shrimp (Not sure yet how I feel about this!)
10. Fish Sauce. (Apparently it's in everything asian but it sounds weird the brown liquid run off of fermented fish?)
11. Ginger - ok I do love me some Ginger.
12. Hoisen Sauce- I have heard of it but haven't had it. I chose a recipe with it this week though
13. Lime leaves-  not sure where to get these at yet.
14. Kecap Manis- a dark sweet soy sauce that tastes like brown sugar and soy sauce mixed. I am excited to try this!
15. Lemon Grass
16. Miso Paste
17. Mushrooms- I have been trying to eat more mushrooms. They aren't my favorite. Yet.
18. Mustard Seeds- I do love mustard.
19. Nori Sheets- made of algae? I'll have to let you know about this, I am a little scared though.
20. Sake- ok i have had this.
21. Snake beans- they look like string beans, not sure what the difference is yet.
22. Soy Sauce- got it!
23. Tofu- The texture kinda bugs me out, but I am going to try again with this.
24. Water Chestnuts. Good.
25. Won ton wrappers- I tried cooking with these before and they came out pretty well.
     So, my plan is- get as familiar as I can with the products that  I will be able to purchase elsewhere and make good use of the kitchens I have the pleasure of cooking in while in South East Asia. I hope that I meet many locals or travelers with great new recipes and techniques to better my cooking skills. The influences could help me create many fusion dishes and it be great to maybe share some of the ways we do things with some locals. There's something sacred about preparing and sharing a meal with new people and bringing that experience of family to those traveling without one and those families who share their food and culture with you.

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